Racial health gap widens as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Posted at 6:22 PM, Nov 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-19 18:30:58-05

Nine months deep in the COVID-19 pandemic, as diagnoses multiply across the country, experts say Black and Hispanic Americans are still more vulnerable to experiencing serious complications from the novel coronavirus and less likely to be tested for it.

And their health isn’t the only thing at risk. For low-income groups, of which Black and Hispanic people form a disproportionate amount, missing work due to a diagnosis or quarantine can mean losing a sorely needed job or failing to pay bills for the month.

“I do believe that there are people that have it and never get tested because they don’t want to know, and the consequences of knowing and what that might mean,” said Dr. Karen Bankston, a professor emerita at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing, during a Thursday conference on the racial health gap during the pandemic.

Black Americans with COVID-19 are twice as likely to die as their white counterparts.

Food insecurity and eviction worries have become dominant concerns in the lives of many local Hispanic families since the pandemic began, according to pediatric hospitalist Dr. Amy Rule.

Those fears can lead them to avoid testing, she said.

“They have fears that if they test positive that they won’t be able to work, and if they can’t work they can’t feed their families and they can’t pay their rent,” she said.

These are real concerns for families across the country, especially as the United States’ highest-ever spike continues and Congress appears to have temporarily abandoned discussions about a second stimulus package.

“We really need to figure out what the right balance of support for our social and economic well-being is while we are also stemming the tide of the pandemic,” said Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Andrew Beck.